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2 paratroopers killed in Afghanistan were based in Germany

The Defense Department has identified two Germany-based soldiers who died Wednesday in a suicide attack in eastern Afghanistan.

Killed were Staff Sgt. Orion N. Sparks, 29, of Tucson, Ariz., and Sgt. Jonathan A. Gollnitz, 28, of Lakehurst, N.J. The soldiers were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Schweinfurt, Germany.

The pair was killed while on a combat operation in Pul-e-Alam, about 60 miles south of Kabul in Logar province, according to a Facebook post by the regimental commander, Lt. Col. Whit Wright. Both were members of the same platoon in Anvil Troop. The posting was supplied to Stars and Stripes by U.S. Army Europe.

Sparks was “a contagious optimist who was always in good spirits,” Wright wrote.

The non-commissioned officer “could relate to soldiers on a personal level and helped guide them through life,” Wright continued. “Orion was an outstanding trainer of soldiers and a leader who was not afraid to get his hands dirty and lead from the front – a true NCO to the end. He was a cornerstone in Anvil Troop."

Gollnitz, the commander noted, “quickly filled a gap in the platoon's junior leadership. Bringing a quiet professionalism to his work, he was able to build a strong team of soldiers that trusted and respected him.”

“Jonathan,” Wright added, “was also able to communicate with soldiers on a personal level and would often speak of his son and his plans for the future."

Wright wrote that “several other paratroopers were wounded, one severely, in the same incident.” He reminded people that Gold Star Mother's Day is Sunday and asked for “an extra prayer for the mothers of Orion and Jonathan this year.”

A spokesperson for USAREUR said plans for a memorial service for both soldiers would be coordinated by officials in Schweinfurt.

Media reports Wednesday indicated the suicide attack was a car bombing and that it was followed by small arms and rocket fire. The soldiers were apparently defusing a bomb on the side of the road when the deadly assault occurred.

Sources: Facebook posting, Defense Department

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